Situated in the western Balkan peninsula of Europe, Bosnia and Herzegovina boasts a blend of East and West, stemming from its Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian history. Expats moving to Bosnia and Herzegovina will enjoy exploring its historic sites, charming towns and gorgeous landscapes. Bosnia occupies the northern and central parts of the country, while Herzegovina occupies the much smaller south and southwest.
Living in Bosnia and Herzegovina as an expat
Expats in Bosnia and Herzegovina usually choose to live in Sarajevo, most of whom are employed by NGOs or international organisations. Entrepreneurs are also starting to see the potential of the country’s educated workforce and are choosing Bosnia and Herzegovina as a destination for setting up businesses, especially those that focus on computing and technology.
Obtaining the correct visa or work permit for Bosnia and Herzegovina is a lengthy process, and expats need to prepare themselves for the bureaucratic backlogs. Due to the country’s high unemployment figures, trailing spouses might have some difficulty securing a job in their field, so it’s best to be flexible and open-minded.
The standard of healthcare is not up to the standard that expats from North America or Western Europe would be accustomed to. There is a shortage of medical staff in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and while there are a few good private hospitals in the country, it is best that expats invest in a health insurance policy that covers them for treatment abroad.
English isn’t always widely spoken, but the younger generations are becoming more fluent as they learn it as a second language at school. Expats will discover that local people are usually warm and generous, which helps foreigners in settling down in a new country.
Expats who take the time to learn at least a few phrases of Bosnian, Croatian or Serbian will find that they develop a deeper appreciation of the local culture. It is also important for expats to remember that the majority of Bosnians are Muslim or Serbian Orthodox, so it is advisable to dress modestly and behave conservatively, especially in rural parts of the country.
Cost of living in Bosnia and Herzegovina
The cost of living in Bosnia is extremely low by global standards. The prices of food and transport are minimal and decrease the further one goes from Sarajevo. Even accommodation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is known to be affordable. The capital, Sarajevo, is the most expensive city in the country, but it is still extremely affordable despite this.
Expats can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle on a relatively small budget. This is evidenced by Mercer’s 2023 Cost of Living Survey, which placed Sarajevo at the 203rd position out of 227 cities surveyed worldwide. This ranking places Sarajevo closer to the less expensive end of the spectrum, even when compared to other cities in the region, such as Belgrade in Serbia or Zagreb in Croatia.
Families and children in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina is not the ideal expat destination for those with children, as there are currently less than 10 international schools in the country, most of which are in Sarajevo.
That said, those who do wish to move with their family will enjoy a wonderful lifestyle, with plenty to see and do. The country is known for its beautiful mountainous scenery, and families who enjoy the outdoors can make the most of its many skiing and hiking opportunities.
Those looking for some cultural enrichment will be in their element in Sarajevo, which has a thriving arts and culture scene. The Sarajevo Film Festival and the International Theatre Festival are just two of the prominent events on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s calendar. There are also many child-friendly attractions to entertain the little ones, such as museums and amusement parks.
Climate in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Unlike its nearby neighbours, Bosnia and Herzegovina has a continental climate characterised by warm summers and cold, snowy winters. That said, the small stretch of land closest to the sea differs from the rest of the country with its somewhat Mediterranean climate. Temperatures range between 23ºF (-5ºC) and 81ºF (27ºC) throughout the year, rarely dropping below 10ºF (-12ºC) or rising above 92ºF (33ºC).
Despite its troubled past, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country full of potential and opportunities for expats. Once new arrivals overcome the bureaucratic red tape, they are likely to find that moving to Bosnia and Herzegovina is a unique and worthwhile expat experience.
Population: About 3.2 million
Capital city: Sarajevo
Neighbouring countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina is bordered by Croatia to the north and west, Serbia to the east, and Montenegro to the south.
Geography: Bosnia and Herzegovina is a largely landlocked country located in the western Balkans. It is home to the Dinaric Alps, as well as a substantial number of lakes and rivers.
Political system: parliamentary representative democracy
Major religions: Islam and Orthodox Christianity
Main languages: Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian
Money: The local currency is the Bosnia and Herzegovina Mark (BAM), which is divided into 100 pfennigs.
Time: GMT+1 (GMT+2 during daylight savings time)
Electricity: 230V, 50 Hz. Plugs with two round pins are used throughout the country.
Internet domain: .ba
International dialling code: +387
Emergency number: Ambulance (112), Police (122) and Fire (123)
Transport: Cars in Bosnia and Herzegovina drive on the right-hand side of the road. The capital city, Sarajevo, offers adequate public transport by way of buses and trams, but expats looking to explore further afield will need a car.
Are you an expat living in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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